In June 1994, representatives of 92 governments and 25 international organisations formed the World Conference on Special Needs Education, held in Salamanca, Spain. They agreed a dynamic new Statement on the education of all disabled children, which called for inclusion to be the norm. In addition, the Conference adopted a new Framework for Action, the guiding principle of which is that ordinary schools should accommodate all children, regardless of their physical, intellectual, social, emotional, linguistic or other conditions.
The Statement begins with a commitment to Education for All, recognising the necessity and urgency of providing education for all children, young people and adults “within the regular education system.” The Statement also calls on the international community to endorse the approach of inclusive schooling stating that “Regular schools with this inclusive orientation are the most effective means of combating discriminatory attitudes, creating welcoming communities, building an inclusive society and achieving education for all; moreover, they provide an effective education to the majority of children and improve the efficiency and ultimately the cost-effectiveness of the entire education system.”
THE CHALLENGE OF EDUCATION FOR ALL
Since the Salamanca statement, the quest for schools to be places of inclusive practice that is, where all pupils feel part of a community of care and whose individual learning and social needs are viewed as problems to be met rather than barriers, has proved to be a difficult and often challenging goal.
In the UK context, all of the four devolved administrations have a stated commitment to promote inclusive practice in schools. However, whereas in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, children generally attend their local school, in England, the schooling system has become more fragmented with pupils often attending schools beyond their own communities.
Furthermore, the undoubted progress in achieving inclusive schooling following the Warnock Report (1978) and the subsequent 1981 Education Act have, over the past ten years or so, been increasingly compromised by the model of “fragmented centralism” following the reforms of state schooling through the academies programme and measuring the success of schools primarily through examination results.
This increasing diversity of schooling provision and a systemic model of improvement based on a national curriculum coupled with a relentless focus on measuring success through pupil attainment rather than pupil achievement, has created a schooling culture which all too often excludes pupils who find learning or socialisation more difficult than their peers.
EXCELLENCE THROUGH EQUITY
Since its inception in 1999, The Staff College has championed excellence through equity that is, the notion that through addressing the needs of those who find learning and socialisation most difficult, all in the school community gain.This commitment to equity of opportunity combined with a fundamental belief that children and young people learn best when they feel valued, respected and included, has framed the school improvement work of the College.
We now have a long tradition of supporting local authorities and schools in creating new models of school improvement through collective accountability for all children across local areas and families of schools. In this sense we have been replacing fragmented centralism with connected localism which puts children and young people at the heart of the schooling endeavour. This we believe, is the true basis for creating inclusive schooling.
As a result of working in this field over many years we have created approaches and materials which are designed to support individual teachers, schools, policy makers and local authorities to think about, consider and create the conditions for their own models of inclusive schooling.
These materials sit in the following three topic areas:
• Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND);
• Promoting Equity in Education;
• Schools as places of belonging.
Each of these areas contain research articles, think pieces, policy documents, case studies and professional development materials which we hope will be helpful and useful for those wishing to create or enhance models of achieving excellence through equity in their own communities of practice.
Anton Florek (Series Editor)